Genre. A necessary evil?

It’s interesting. When qualifying my novel The Procurement of Souls as a Victorian-gothic-steampunk crossover (which it is!), my wife tells me, it’s off-putting. To who? To me, she says, steampunk cheapens it; it’s much more than that. Well, I happen to love quality fiction within the so-called steampunk sub-genre and by being specific, knowing our audience, targeting the reader, surely we are doing ourselves a service by tapping into the market to which it is aimed. It’s fundamental. Categorising by genre is a major pillar of fiction marketing and the writing industry. And that makes sense. Of course it does! How else are readers to navigate the sea of books out there to choose from? Searching by genre is the logical solution.

Nevertheless, perhaps she raises a valid point (you see, I always listen to my wife): are we not simultaneously also hemming ourselves in by the category/ies we assign to our work? My wife, for one, (and of course she’s biased – I’m not that naïve) thoroughly enjoyed reading #PoS even if she was flagging a little when it came to the fourth draft(?). She loved the alternate turn-of-the-century world it imagines; the language use (undertones of a 19th century pastiche); the characters encountered. She has good taste. Yet although, all these aspects of the novel are strongly influenced by steampunk motifs, label it thus and she attests that, speaking objectively, she would be less inclined to give it a go.

This is a quandary. By assigning genre/s to a title, do we therefore turn off a whole other group of people who would otherwise have read our work? Or is this is the sacrifice one has to make in the bid to draw in those already interested in the sub/genre? On balance, I’ll stick with Victorian-gothic-steampunk. Either that or I’ll start marketing #PoS as a Victorian-gothic-steampunk-fantasy-science-fiction-alternate-historical-thriller-adventure-horror. Hmmm…

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